Ten years ago I asked “Do we have the vision and courage to seize the opportunity and establish New Zealand as a trusted provider of services to the new global economy?” in the Listener article 20 ideas for a better world. The world has moved on, and the answer to my question proved to be “No”. I think it is worth revisiting.
The proposal was based on the use of renewable energy to power a global data center, an argument that the Extinction Rebellion movement makes even more compelling. We also have other competitive advantages that make NZ an ideal choice for a data center to service the region.
We have strategic assets built over many years that are core to New Zealand values – assets such as trust and integrity, a stable legal and regulatory regime, and good relations with both the West and Asia – which are a unique source of national competitive advantage. These are increasingly valuable in a digital future of deep fakes and digital challenges to the political order. We need to protect and nurture these strengths.
We are able to attract talent as life elsewhere becomes more difficult (crowding, pollution, climate, traffic, violence – pick your own dystopia). How many people, when they hear you are from NZ say “Oh, I’ve always wanted to go there”? We can attract creativity and build for success in the digital information economy.
Don Christie has written about the future of NZ’s technology and how we can create regulations and technology platforms that return to the original intent of an internet, built on diversity, as a force for good. We can build systems that provide safe spaces that interoperate with the platforms offered by global tech giants.
In 2009 I predicted “points of commerce will emerge (in a similar way to the entrepots of the 18th century, or the financial centres of the 20th century) – attractor locations in an otherwise flat world. Network economics will drive more and more interaction to these attractors, which will develop unassailable critical mass”. Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple are the result of these forces, and now face a reaction to their power as global players; there is a search for alternatives.
NZ has assets based on values, assets based on talent and assets based on technology. What is needed to be part of the next wave of solutions? The essential pre-requisite is a strategic intent to be a player and build on NZ’s competitive advantages. A collection of NZ leaders drawn from multiple disciplines and focused on strategic thinking, could provide leadership and a future direction for values-based technology.
Laurence Millar is a Board Member of NZRise who has more than 35 years experience in the innovative use of technology to support organisational change. He has worked on projects in the government, banking, telecommunications and distribution sectors; and has worked extensively in New Zealand, Asia, the Middle East, Australia, USA and UK/Europe.
He is involved with NZRise because it is the voice of the NZ owned tech sector and has been with us since the start because the cause is important and he thinks he can help make a difference in the transition to a digital nation.
Laurence is the Executive Director of the 20/20 Trust.
This is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of NZRise. Questions and comments can be directed to [email protected]